Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

VIMS Department/Program

Center for Coastal Resources Management (CCRM)

Publication Date



In coastal Virginia today, local governments are dealing with recurrent flooding driven by coastal storms, exacerbated by rising sea level and increased frequency of intense rain events. At the same time, they are confronted with increasing demands on limited resources to address issues coastal flooding in concert with water quality, wetlands management, shoreline erosion, habitat, and community needs such as infrastructure, flood insurance and open space. One solution is to maximize the protection of existing and implement new natural and nature-based features (NNBFs) to capitalize on the provision of multiple benefits to address many of these coastal issues.

There are myriad of programs addressing each of these issues, providing requirements in many cases and funding opportunities in a few. The challenge for local officials is two-fold: finding projects that can provide multiple benefits; and knowing exactly how to design and report those projects to achieve credit or to attract funding for them.

In this project, we focused on increasing the use of NNBFs to enhance resilience of coastal communities to flooding caused by extreme weather events. The project effectively addresses two problems:

  • The natural capital of coastal communities is generally declining, and is projected to decline at an accelerating rate due to sea level rise and current land use practices.
  • The use of NNBFs to sustain or increase resilience in coastal communities is restricted by the many competing needs for limited local resources.

We developed a novel approach to assess flooding for individual coastal buildings, termed inundation pathways. This analysis enabled the development of a ranking scheme for existing NNBFs based on provision of flood benefits, water quality and potential Federal Emergency Management Agency National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System credits. The inundation pathways were also used to identify coastal buildings lacking NNBF services which are then highlighted as targets for NNBF project implementation along the shoreline to increase community resilience.




Flooding, sea level rise, NNBFs, natural and nature-based features, resilience, Virginia, restoration, FEMA open space, water quality, co-benefits


This work was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through grant # NA17NOS4730142. These data and related items have not been formally disseminated by NOAA, and do not represent any agency determination, view, or policy.



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